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VROOM! DAKKA DAKKA!
In my Fighting Tigers army, I have a regular Bike Squad and an Attack Bike Squad, but I rarely use them. When it comes to Fast Attack choices, Assault Squads are just as fast as bikes, hit harder in close combat, and can come in larger sizes (up to 10). Speeders are faster than bikes, are a little bit cheaper (all things considered), can’t be tied up in hand-to-hand combat, and can throw down obscene amounts of firepower. So usually, my bike squads stay at home.
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There was nothing flashy about this tournament—no gleaming sword for a prize, no wacky scenarios, special rules, nada. Four battles, 1700 points, one detachment, 2-hour time limit per game. For the previous tournament I had taken a largely static, very shooty army. While there’s nothing wrong with that, I was ready for a change: after all, I frequently find myself playing a “stand back and shoot” army because my regular opponent, Pat, plays the most vicious Orks you’ll ever face. In addition, I had the chance to break out those bikes and try them out against a variety of opponents.
My Fighting Tigers army is divided into two complementary parts: Jatis Mahaduyana (the orange and black Tigers), which emphasizes firepower, and Jatis Ghuyarashtra (the yellow and brown Tigers), which emphasizes speed. Usually I take units from both; on one occasion, just on a whim and because it fit the “story” of the battle and my Tigers’ background, I took an army using only units from Jatis Mahaduyana.
Because my bike units belong to Jatis Ghuyarashtra, I thought it might be fun to try something similar and restrict myself to units from that jatis: only “brown Tigers” today! If it didn’t have brown stripes, I wasn’t taking it. With these thoughts in mind I assembled Strike Force Marut, taking its name from the wind deities of Hindu mythology.
As you can see, a nice solid firepower base (a 5-man Tactical Squad, the Scouts, the Devastators, and the Whirlwind) with lots of mobility (two Tactical Squads in Rhinos, the Bike Squads, and 3 Land Speeders). I would have preferred more Tactical Marines, but these were all the ones I had from Jatis Ghuyarashtra. A balanced list, I think; at the very least, it would probably score well for composition.
Game 2: Cleanse vs. Alaitoc Eldar. My opponent, Pat Castleman (not to be confused with my regular sparring partner, Patrick Eibel), was new to 40K, and I had never played against Alaitoc, so we took our time. Time was called after 3 turns, with each of us having 1 board quarter and the other 2 in contention. Hey, I don’t mind a tie against the Eldar….
Game 3: Night Fight vs. Ulthwe Eldar. “Dear, we have to stop meeting like this—your husband is starting to suspect.” Just by luck of the draw, I wound up against Paul’s wife Jeannette, whom I’ve played twice before on two different occasions. Time was called after 3 turns again, with Jeanette having 1 board quarter and the other 3 in contention. Second loss of the day for the Scrapping Puddytats….
Game 4: Recon vs. Thousand Sons. Mike Somerville, whom I defeated in the finals of the "For the Sword!" tourney, got his revenge with 30 of the Sons, some vicious Terminators, and 3 Havoc Squads. I had never played against Thousand Sons before, so you can imagine how I felt when I found out that my bolters and sniper rifles were useless against them. I put up a good fight, but in the end, it was Sons 1536, Tigers 1061.
Three games lost, one game tied. Not a good day at the office, but honestly, it was a lot of fun!
You would think
that at my age I would know better…
In Game 1, I was going along pretty well, running the bikes up the lefthand side of the board towards the Black Templars’ deployment zone, where I already had the Scout Squad waiting. If I could get the Bikes and the Attack Bikes back there with the Scouts, I could score a lot of bonus points.
Being no dummy, Nathan moved one of his Dreadnoughts over to intercept: did I use my superior speed to stay out of harm’s way? NO! I moved within 4", counting on my melta gun to take out his Dread. Of course, because I was taking such a risky gamble, the melta gun failed to so much as glance, even at such close range. His Dread spent a few turns crunching my Bikes, did a sweeping advance, and wound up in my deployment zone at the end of the game, giving Nathan more points.
What I should have done was use my speed to lure the Dread further and further away from my lines, stringing him along and never letting him get near my deployment zone. I would have had plenty of opportunities to slip my Attack Bikes behind his Dread and keep shooting it with heavy bolters until it fell.
When fighting Eldar, I prefer to get into hand-to-hand combat as soon as possible to negate the firepower of starcannons and bright lances. In Game 2, I charged my bikes up the middle of the board and was jumped by Pat’s Striking Scorpions.
Though my Bikes beat his Scorpions and my Attack Bikes beat his nearby Fire Dragons, those units shouldn’t have even been there: as it was, my two units of mobile Tactical Squads and my Space Marine Hero never got into hand-to-hand combat. I should have kept my bikes on the edge of the board and let my Tigers of Rudra rumble with the Scorps and the Dragons.
Same sort of thing happened in Game 3: the Seer Council dropped out of their Wave Serpent right onto my Bike Squad and slowly harshed it. This time, the Hero and the Tac Squads got into the fight, but again, I could have avoided all that unpleasantness by keeping my Bikes far away from the middle of the board.
My bikes actually did very well in Game 4. They ran up the left side of the board, used cover to block line of sight for the defending Sorcerer and Havoc Squad, nailed both of the enemy units, then slid into the Thousand Son deployment zone, where all I had to do was sit tight. But I moved my Bikes a bit too close to polish off another Havoc Squad, and Mike’s Chaos Lord jumped me. End of story.
What to do, what
My pal Ken Lacy once said that one should consider Space Marine Bikes as a smaller, faster Tactical Squad unit—and he’s right, of course. I’ve been given my Bike Squad a flamer and a melta gun and equipped my Veteran Sergeant with a power weapon, but my bikes really have no business being anywhere near the enemy to use those weapons. As I’ve found out the hard way, my bikes must avoid—at all costs—getting caught in close combat.
In close combat, the Bike Squad’s Toughness of 5 certainly slows down the enemy—(most) Eldar in particular have a hard time taking out Bikers in hand-to-hand. But the bikes lack the hitting power and the numbers to win most close combats, and all the while they're stuck boxing with the bad guys, they’re not using their nifty special weapons, heavy weapons, and rapid-firing bolters. Worst of all, when they’re in close combat they’re not going anywhere. A few cheap Guardians or a Grot mob can stall the bikes, whittle them down, and hold them long enough for a REAL ass-kicking unit (say, some Howling Banshees or ‘Ard Boyz) to come along and polish them off.
I apologize if all this seems obvious to you, the reader. Bear with me: some of us have to learn stuff the hard way….
“Sad but wiser?”
Hopefully wiser, but definitely not sad…
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